We are heading into Fall trial season…  entry links are about to pop up and the frenzy to enter will begin!  Lots of people will trial…  some people will be elated with a title ribbon and there will be even more people who are disappointed when they hear the dreaded word “No”.  As Nosework competitors, we dread that word.  That word carries a heaviness and despondency that crushes our trial high for the day.  In some cases, we may have driven ten or fifteen hours and then heard that word.  We all hate that little word.  The word “Yes” on the other hand triggers excitement and adrenaline.  The word “Yes” is hope and excitement with a dash of rainbows and unicorns.

I’d like to raise the appreciation of the word “No”.  It’s not that crushing, demonic word that we all think it is.  It shouldn’t be obliterated from the English language.  “No” isn’t evil…  “No” is Tough Love.  “No” is our teacher, not our friend.  “Yes” gives us a cookie and a pat on a head where “No” gives us a clue.  I have a true Love-Hate Relationship with this word.  “No” is a gift….  a quite unwelcome gift.

If you’re new to trialing you may see a strange phenomenon of people leaving a trial site after experiencing this little word.  Or you may see people leave before the Awards Ceremony because they heard a two letter word instead of a three letter word.  Don’t Do It!  If “No” had feelings, it would cry.

If you have a particularly strong dog, this word may not even be in your vocabulary!  You’re not as lucky as you think you are.  Being a No-Virgin is stressful and full of pressure but if your Yes-Streak comes to an end, embrace your “No”.  Learn from your “No” and then go get ‘em at the next trial.  As luck would have it, I have one of these dogs.  He is the kind of dog who owns the search area when he goes in and very little will distract him from odor.  If it was not for a couple of very small handling mistakes he would have earned NW1 through NW3 Elite in five straight trials.  Am I disappointed?  Heck no!  Well maybe in the beginning I WAS a little disappointed however, now I am a WAY better handler now than when I started in NW3 with him.  We now earn our share of P’s, placements at every trial and I come out of a search feeling like a team, not the anchor at the end of a talented leash.  I know we will make a very prepared Elite team.  Until we get that final NW3, I will Love-Hate my “No’s”.

You see, our judges and Certifying Officials know what they are doing.  At a trial you’ll have the opportunity to work through level appropriate scent puzzles in front of some really experienced folks who truly want you to become a better team.

Trial Card

This particular little gem of a “No” gave me the gift of reminding me of a fundamental handling strategy.  It looks elementary but it’s not.  You see, this particular “No” was coupled with an inaccessible hide in close proximity to an accessible hide in a very small search area.  Ah!  Now I’ve got your interest?  I drove 13 hours for this little gem of insight.  I found a training hole and a handling hole.

The other benefit of a “No” is that it will STICK WITH YOU!  It is one mistake that you will try VERY hard not to repeat.  Why?  Because a “No” carries a huge opportunity cost.  It’s possible that your “No” will teach you something that your trainer has been repeating over and over to no avail.  Possibly your “No” is new insight.  “No” makes you a better handler and trainer.

Trialing this Fall?  Go for the “Yes” but love your “No” and definitely stay and learn about the hides at the Awards Ceremony.  Your next trial will be that much stronger!  If you get a “No”, embrace it and realize that it means you learned something special and you get to go back out and play with your best friend at the next trial.

Happy Trial Season!